Shut up or speak your mind? The struggle in today’s hyper-sensitive world

censor yourself

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

When I started blogging, I wrote whatever came to mind, dropping F-bombs and S-grenades as if I was a cursing armory with an unlimited supply of ammo.

I was clueless about how clueless I was. Like an RPG game character, I leveled up in experience over the years and became wiser … and more conscious … up to the point where I dropped opinions and paragraphs that I deemed too offensive.

I am more understanding about my impact and my brand but the risks of offending seem overwhelming sometimes. I see that certain topics, for example gender-roles and sexual orientation, seem to be taboo if written by the ‘wrong’ people.

I see bloggers and authors become ostracized for speaking their minds and freedom of speech is okay as long as you don’t offend anyone, which of course is impossible. Someone who reads this very blog post will probably be offended. But this worry about speaking your mind is not some irrational fear of mine, I got a taste of that myself.

My censor yourself lesson

I once wrote a blogpost about JK ROWLING’S TERRIBLE BRANDING MISTAKE (AND WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT), which criticized her choice to publish a depressing, drug-infused family tragedy right after finishing her last Harry Potter book. The new book, titled The Casual Vacancy, was torn apart by hardcore JK Rowling fans who bought the novel for their little kids, expecting it to be a children-friendly story. But instead of friendship and magic, they found heavy cursing, murder, and rape. In my opinion, which I expressed in the post, this was a bad branding choice on JK’s account, but oh my, the world thought otherwise.

The post discussion quickly escalated into a sh!%storm. The comments piled up by the dozens within hours. I even got hate mail, telling me to take down that post because how dare I tell a successful person what to do. For me, it was simply a post about branding, but many turned it into a controversy about power and gender.

It has changed me

That was a long time ago, but the impact has stayed with me. Before I write a new post or even tweet nowadays, I hold my breath and wonder if the content is too offensive and might tarnish my online presence. Since nothing on the web ever disappears, I worry about saying something stupid that a hater later finds out and holds against me once I’m rich and famous, heh.

Since I’m striving to be a full-time author, I follow others in the field who have made it and watch their social media strategies. I see how authors who openly express their political views get bashed by groups with opposite opinions.

The result? Attacks! Online petitions that deny the author to attend certain events, devastating reviews on Amazon and Goodreads from people who never read the book but needed to share their disdain for the author’s political views. It looks harmless, but a tarnished reputation can be the death of your (digital) career.

On one side, I’m annoyed by how easily offended some of us are. It seems that there is no grace for mistakes, no patience for a learning curve, no tolerance for exploring other ideas.

On the other side, I’m practical and don’t want to kiss my reputation goodbye.

The artist in me says write what you want, the business professional tells me to watch my words … to not risk my brand.

The question is, where do you draw the line? If you are a young person starting out, how do you know here the line even is?

Mars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures

Original illustration by the author.

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast!

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details

Share via